Of all the many emotions we display and encounter during a typical workday, anger is probably the most common. There are many reasons for this, but since I am not a psychologist I will not speculate on all the causes. I do think we can agree there are many angry people in the workplace these days. Perhaps you are one of them.
Sometimes unreasonable deadlines and work pressures spark anger. Unfulfilled goals and unrealized expectations can leave us feeling angry. Conflicts with colleagues and coworkers, especially those having personalities that do not mesh with our own, can arouse our ire. We carry conflict from home to work, or from work to our homes, leading to unexpected and often unjustified displays of anger. Some of us have grown up with anger boiling inside of us, just waiting for an excuse to explode.
In most instances, uncontrolled expressions of anger are detrimental, causing damage that proves difficult to repair. So how do we handle it? When someone bumps our emotional bucket and anger starts to spill out, what can we do?
Recently I was reading a story about a businessman who thought he had succeeded in being awarded a major contract. This transaction deal would have been the largest in his company’s history, taking his department’s production to unprecedented heights. Unfortunately, before the agreement was formalized the potential clients had a change of heart and elected to work with another company instead.
Understandably, the business executive was extremely disappointed. In fact, he became more than that. He boiled with anger and considered storming into the headquarters of the client that had reneged on the deal. He would inform anyone and everyone how wrongfully his company had been treated. If his angry thoughts had been bullets, a lot of people would have been wounded.
Before acting on this impulse, however, he took some time to calm down and ultimately decided to remain silent. He reasoned that although a strong display of emotion would feel cathartic, it would gain nothing. Since anger is so pervasive, the Bible has much to say about it. Here are just a few examples:
Seek to resolve disagreements promptly. Conflict is normal, but if we allow angry feelings to seethe and simmer, the magnitude of the dispute can escalate far beyond what is warranted. “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…” (Ephesians 4:26).
Do not let anger turn into bitterness. Disagreements usually can be resolved, but harboring angry feelings can lead to bitterness that damages, even destroys relationships. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31).
Listening, rather than speaking, can quell angry outbursts. It often helps to keep silent and listen, rather than quickly responding angrily when provoked. Sometimes we become angry simply because we fail to properly understand what someone is saying. Even if we still disagree, calmly discussing differences is more productive than angry demonstrations. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20).
Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran journalist, he has written Tufting Legacies (iUniverse); Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press); and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or his blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.comand www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.
1. Do you, or someone close to you, struggle with anger? How is it typically manifested? And what are the results of such demonstrations?
2. The saying tells us, “If it feels good, do it!” So why is it wrong to vent our anger when it feels good to release such pent-up emotions?
3. Can you think of some situations where anger was expressed inappropriately in a workplace setting, causing destructive and disruptive results? Describe one or two of those scenarios and what the consequences were.
4. What are your reactions to the biblical recommendations about anger and how it should be managed?
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to review additional passages that relate to this topic, consider the following verses:
Proverbs 12:16, 14:16,29, 15:18, 16:32, 17:27, 19:19, 22:24-25, 25:28, 26:21, 29:11